UMass Dartmouth's fast-emerging bio-materials research program has been awarded a $150,000 grant from the UMass system to seed the development of an inter-disciplinary, cross-institution collaboration designed to make Massachusetts the Silicon Valley of bio-engineering.
The grant was among $1.1 million in grants announced this week by UMass President Jack M. Wilson as part of the President's 2006 Science and Technology Initiatives Fund.
"This type of leveraging is a critical element of our strategy to build the University's research enterprise and promote collaboration," he added. "The program is proving to be a tremendous catalyst and is among the most rewarding investments that the University of Massachusetts makes each year."
The UMass Dartmouth grant will support the development of a cellular engineering center that will draw on strong collaborations that already exist between UMass Dartmouth faculty and researchers at UMass Lowell, Massachusetts General Hospital, Tufts University and other institutions as well as industry. The grant will position UMass Dartmouth to seek federal grant funding for major research projects.
"This grant is evidence of UMass Dartmouth's rapidly growing expertise in bio-engineering and related science," Chancellor Jean F. MacCormack said. "This is a field that has tremendous potential to positively advance health care and the economy in this region, Massachusetts and beyond. Our faculty is strongly positioned to play important roles in these exciting developments."
"We intend to advance our bioengineering research by helping our many young faculty to develop strong collaborations with leaders in the field and by bringing the region's bioengineering researchers together," said Dr. Alex Fowler of the Department of Mechanical Engineering.
Dr. Fowler will be joined in the project by Dr. Paul Calvert, Chairman of the Department of Materials and Textiles Engineering; Dr. Sankha Bhowmick of the Department of Mechanical Engineering; Dr. Peter Hart of the Biology Department; Dr. Howard Michel of the Department of Electrical Engineering; and Dr. Steve Warner, of the Department of Materials and Textiles Engineering.
Bio-technology and bio-medical devices already represent multi-billion dollar industries in Massachusetts and are expected to continue to grow in importance. Tissue engineering will soon join this group of major Massachusetts industries that depend on the co-existence of human cells and engineering systems.
As these industries move from initial invention to production, there will be an increasing need for improved cell supports, cell processing, monitoring and storage systems, according to the grant proposal. As these bio-engineering industries come to rival the silicon-based industries in scale they will need support from all branches of engineering, chemistry and physics.
The UMass Dartmouth bio-engineering effort was one of eight projects funded by President's Science and Technology Initiatives Fund this year and one of 24 funded over the last three years.
"Once again in this competition, UMass researchers have submitted dynamic and innovative proposals for work in new and important areas of investigation," commented President Wilson. "Projects supported in the first two rounds of S & T funding, including the MassNanoTech at Amherst and the Massachusetts Biomanufacturing Center at Lowell and Dartmouth, have gone on to secure over $40 million of additional funding from government and private sources."
Other President's Science and Technology Initiatives Fund awards for 2006:
· Mass-CREST: Center for Renewable Energy at UMass Amherst.
· Wireless Communication Center of Excellence at UMass Amherst
· Center for Coastal Environmental Sensing Networks at UMass Boston
· Green Chemistry Collaborative for Pharmaceuticals at UMass Lowell
· Translational Research Center at the UMass Medical School
· Oral Vaccine Initiative at the UMass Medical School
· System-wide UMass/China S & T Faculty Exchange.